Personal Injury Case in a Car Accident

Car accidents are often sudden events, and no one can anticipate when, where, or how a car accident will occur. Car accidents are frustrating life events that unfortunately affect the lives of many individuals every year. What is even more frustrating is when the defendant driver or his or her counsel destroys, or allows to be destroyed, critical evidence required by the plaintiff to prove the defendant’s negligence in the car accident. This concept is called spoliation of evidence.

Spoliation of Evidence

When a personal injury has not yet begun and there is only a potential for litigation, parties have a duty to preserve evidence when he or she knows there is a reasonable possibility that the evidence will be relevant to the personal injury case. A seasoned litigator will know to send a preservation letter to the opposing party as soon as possible. A preservation letter explains the duty to preserve evidence and is intended to put the opposing party on notice of a future lawsuit. Oftentimes, a defendant will argue that he or she should not be subject to sanctions for failing to preserve evidence when no order has been entered by a court. However, under Nevada law, this duty exists even when no order has been entered by a court.  

To help mitigate spoliation of evidence, when a party fails to preserve evidence in a case, either intentionally or negligently, the Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure allows judges to sanction that party for his or her actions in preventing the opposing party’s discovery efforts. Sanctions may include, but are not limited to, striking a pleading, dismissing a case, or other sanctions deemed appropriate by the court.

Case Example

In the case of Bass-Davis v. Davis, 134 P.3d 103 (2006), plaintiff slipped and fell at a 7-Eleven store, and subsequently sued to recover damages for her injuries. During discovery, the plaintiff learned that the defendant had destroyed the surveillance tape that would have contained relevant evidence. At trial, the plaintiff offered several jury instructions concerning spoliation of evidence, but the district court refused to give such an instruction. On appeal, Bass-Davis argued that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to instruct the jury on the lost evidence. On appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court held that even when evidence is negligently lost, some sanction should be issued to restore the evidentiary balance of the parties. The Nevada Supreme Court held that sanctions should have been imposed due to the destruction of evidence: “The instant case similarly involves evidence lost through negligence, and thus, the district court should have given the adverse inference instruction, proffered as proposed Instruction C, or should have imposed another appropriate sanction.” Bass-Davis v. Davis, 134 P.3d 103 (2006).

How an Attorney Can Help

If you are involved in a car accident, an experienced catastrophic injury lawyer, like from Eglet Adams, can ensure that the negligent party maintains his or her duty to preserve evidence, or that a court issues the appropriate sanctions if critical evidence is not preserved.